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June 1998

Violence Exposure and Emotional Trauma as Contributors to Adolescents' Violent Behaviors

Author Affiliations

From the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio (Drs Song and Singer), and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Rockville, Md (Dr Anglin).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(6):531-536. doi:10.1001/archpedi.152.6.531

Objective  To investigate the degree to which violence exposure and symptoms of psychological trauma are related to adolescents' own violent behaviors.

Design and Setting  Anonymous self-report questionnaire administered to students in 6 public high schools (grades 9-12).

Participants  Sixty-eight percent of the students attending the participating schools during the survey participated in the study (N=3735). Ages ranged from 14 to 19 years; 52% were female; and 35% were African American, 33% white, and 23% Hispanic.

Results  Multiple regression analysis determined that violence exposure and symptoms of psychological trauma together explained more than 50% of the variance in both male and female self-reported violent behavior. The independent effects of exposure to violence explained about one quarter of the variance in both male and female adolescents' violent behaviors. Anger was found to be the leading trauma symptom.

Conclusion  Our findings suggest that health clinicians and other professionals who encounter adolescents should routinely screen them for both exposure to violence and symptoms of anger.